the unexpectedly therapeutic ritual of archiving

I’ve been thinking about archiving a lot recently. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to archive and how little regard we have for it as a culture. Some of the world’s greatest museums exist because someone thought of archiving the present in the past. Entire cultures are able to feel pride and shame because archives exist.

I’ve also been thinking about how archives make us feel. They give us access to the past in ways that no other human invention ever will. Archives hold the power of time travel.

I’m always excited when I come across a project based on archival research. The idea that someone pieced together a story based on bits of recorded history is so satisfying to me.

I somehow unknowingly always knew this. That’s why I’ve been doing my own form of archiving for as long as I can remember. I keep scraps of paper from trips, including air tickets, hotel card keys, museum passes, matchboxes, maps, notes, directions, even the smallest bits of recorded memory.

I recently went through my collection. I dug through postcards, art, stickers, photographs, tickets, maps, cards, and all sorts of travel related and non-travel related memorabilia from my life. I found the pieces to so many great stories that I never got the chance to tell. It was so therapeutic for me, to travel back in time and see all that I’ve experienced over the last few years. I smiled to myself, knowing that so far, I’ve had a relatively full life. No matter what twists or turns life throws at me, I am satisfied knowing that when I was able to, I chased my dreams and desires fiercely, and got to collect all these stories on the way.

That’s why, I’ve decided to put together a set of short stories, made up of mainly those scraps and some images. This way, you can go back in time with me, and meet the people and see the things I’ve seen. Below is my first story from my time in New York City in November 2016.

“The Opening”

NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 2016. I’m a really sentimental person so when I travel I usually keep every little scrap and paper I come across on my travels. On this particular trip I was on a layover in New York City before heading to South America. I took the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan, started the day in Chinatown and made my way to Washington Square park. That’s where I met Rahim, a Moroccan immigrant who almost beat the world chess champion and won the title himself. If you google him you’ll find an article about him on the New York Times. Anyway, Rahim asked me if I had some time to spare and I said yes so we spent almost three hours at the park playing chess. He taught me a strategy called “The Opening”. The Opening is basically a set of rules to follow in chess that make sure you win the game. I used “The Opening” against a few players that day and won. He wrote them down for me on a paper (pictured here) and even though I’ve forgotten how to play I’ve kept it. Rahim used to be a mathematician in Morocco but left that life behind him after moving to New York. Now he’s a full time chess teacher and hopes to break the chess world record again. I’ve kept all the bits of paper from that day with me, and although I wasn’t as skilled at taking photos back then as I am now, I am glad I have these photos to go along with my scraps.

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Also, here are also some photos from my archive that I took around Dubai from 2017 - 2018. I wanted to share them cos they’re so cute to me. I wanted to share these alongside the story cos I couldn’t just share one thing at a time.